Today’s physical retailers are spending a lot of time figuring out how to remain competitive while delivering a consistently great customer experience in a cost-efficient way.
Retailers who can deliver better experiences across all channels will be the winners, but a seamless customer experience increasingly means digitization of the physical store. It’s no surprise that pioneers in retail innovation such as Amazon and Alibaba are investing significantly in physical stores like WholeFoods and Hema.
The reality is the battleground has moved to the edge – in the physical store. Retailers are looking to implement new in-store services, which almost always rely on technology, from innovative checkout technologies through to interactive in-store displays and virtual reality (VR).
But can retailers really optimize efficiencies while delivering innovation?
Retail IT infrastructure was built for a different age
Currently, most retailers say their existing infrastructure isn’t geared towards fostering innovation due to its lack of flexibility. Most in-store IT infrastructures were built for a different age and have grown over time with no thought towards enabling rapid service deployment and delivering centralized management and control, making it expensive to run and a barrier to innovation.
CIOs recognize that in order to reduce the physical footprint of IT in-store and thereby the IT bill of materials, as well as enable relevant workloads and data to be processed in real time at the edge – in the store – new technology is required.
These are exciting times as new edge technologies are changing the art of the possible.
Towards the edge
This is why CIOs are moving to edge technology, which offers the best of both worlds. When designed for the retail space, it ensures that information processing, content collection and delivery are placed closer to the source of the data – in the store – and closer to customers and store operations.
Edge technology relies on edge-scale virtualization to enable the in-store infrastructure to support multiple applications and appliances without increasing the IT footprint and support overheads. It makes the management of these appliances easier and more cost effective because they are managed as software, with automated updates and upgrades carried out remotely.
Getting edge technology right
What’s required is an edge technology solution that can cater for the unique distributed store environment. And when it comes to management and control, the CIO needs to treat the store IT estate as an integrated whole, not a collection of disparate devices.
The ideal solution is one that leans towards the management of a store ecosystem and away from managing individual stores. When used on a large scale, this approach relies heavily on in-built intelligent automation that enables the management, control and updating of IT across the entire store estate, and does so with compliance and security in mind.
CIOs have to ensure every dollar of technology investment delivers immediate and measurable ROI, and enables business innovation. Edge technology makes this possible, offering a new approach that can digitize the physical store and transform the economics of the business.
-Nick East, CEO, Zynstra